CD: 9 Songs; 37:07 Minutes
Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues, Instrumental Blues
When it comes to instruments associated with the blues, which ones immediately spring to mind? Most likely “guitar,” followed by “harmonica,” “organ”, “piano” and various types of horns. “Violin,” if it’s not completely off of most people’s lists, is probably near the bottom. However, such a stringed sensation has played a foundational part in the genre, popularized by such bands as the Mississippi Sheiks in the 1930s. It is this zeitgeist, the spirit of that age, which Canada’s Lenny Solomon clearly captures in The Blues Violin, an album of all instrumentals. Purists beware: According to his website, critic Mark Rheaume of CBC Music Resources states, “The album is called THE BLUES VIOLIN, but it could just as easily been titled THE JAZZ VIOLIN, or yes, THE ROCK VIOLIN, reflecting Solomon’s roots in the pop band, Myles and Lenny, in the 1970s.”
Even with that said, Solomon’s debut CD is full of catchy, avant-garde instrumentals that run the gamut from pure blues to jazz and blues rock. According to Lenny’s promotional materials, “…a number of influences and blues styles are present, including New Orleans Second Line (“Second Line Blues”), Chicago (“Jojo”), [and] Mississippi Delta (“Slow Slide into Blues”). Performing along with Solomon on violin are Marc Ganetakos on guitar, bassist Shelly Berger, keyboard player Mark Lalama, drummer/percussionist Steve Heathcote, Vern Dorge on tenor sax, David Dunlop on trumpet, and Doug Gibson on trombone. All nine originals were composed by Solomon, Berger, and Ganetakos except for “Winter Tears”, in which Danny Marks takes Ganetakos’ place. The three mentioned below will appeal the most to die-hard blues fans:
Track 02: “Winter Tears” – Just as we in the Northern Hemisphere are recovering from another punishing bout of snow and ice, this perfect-for-slow-dancing tune reminds us of our pain. The melody crackles like flames in a fireplace – as does Solomon’s violin, its notes leaping warm and high. The horn section makes sure that this musical heat is dispersed evenly throughout the song.
Track 03: “Slow Slide into Blues” – Guitar aficionados rejoice: this is the track for which you’ve been searching, and it’s only the third one. Mark Ganetakos plays a brilliant traditional intro, and Solomon proudly displays the Mississippi Delta influence along with him. This will be a surefire hit at live shows. Even people who think violin only belongs at Mozart concerts will go, “Now THAT’S the blues!” Listen closely for Shelly Berger’s wicked bass riff in the middle.
Track 09: “Jojo” – This is an up-tempo take on Chicago blues, requiring nimble fingers and feet to snap and stomp along. Mark Lalama gets his chance to shine the brightest on piano keyboards here, as does drummer Steve Heathcote. Everyone’s going all out here, and that’s very fitting for the album’s finale.
Overall, this album might take more than one listen for some listeners to love it, but once they do, they’ll certainly come back for more helpings of The Blues Violin!